Today, I sit in a beach house on a family vacation, trolling for trade deadline news on my cell phone via a spotty connection. During this, I tripped over an article by Call to the Pen titled, "Teams Should Steer Clear of Bud Norris."
I rolled my eyes at the headline because here's what I expected to read:
- Bud Norris is a 5th starter to everybody else, but the Astros are dumb enough to think he's an ace, and so the price will be exorbitantly high.
- Bud Norris stinks...after all, one metric or other shows that he's really bad, but most people don't know it because they don't read Fangraphs.
- Bud Norris' only value is because he's young and cheap, just like the Astros in general. Other than that, he's cannon fodder for the league's best hitters.
- The argument that Norris is a 4th or 5th starter on most teams is bunk. He's 28 years old, and is thus in the prime of his career. He's having the best season of his career, as he's lowered his HR rate, Walk rate, ERA, and FIP well below his career numbers, all while sporting a BABIP that is quite a bit higher than his career numbers. So - he's been good AND unlucky.
- Matt Garza was widely considered the prize of the trade deadline. But is he really that much better than Norris? He sports a 3.77 career ERA, his FIP numbers for the season are right around Norris, but perhaps most importantly, he's exorbitantly more expensive, just returned from major injury, and is a free agent after the 2013 season. And the Cubs received four prospects, a few of whom appear on the top of their farm system's talent rankings. As the author of the article above points out, Norris' age, health, and contract are some of his biggest selling points. So why shouldn't he be worth the kind of return that Garza fetched? At least!
- Astros GM Jeff Luhnow has no recorded history of asking unrealistic returns for his starters. He's a pretty hoopy frood - he knows that just because Norris is the Astros' best starter, that doesn't make him a traditional 'ace'. Most likely, when dealing with the Orioles, the names Bundy, Gausmann, and Machado never came up unless other players (Carter? Altuve) were involved. The trades Luhnow has made to date have all had reasonable returns. Take, for example, the Jose Veras trade to the Tigers this week. He was the Astros' closer, but the players returned for him amounted to a prospect who barely cracks the Astros' Top 20 and an unnamed lottery ticket whose identity will probably be determined by Veras' performance in the 7th or 8th inning in Detroit.